Fall is a great time of year for going on a nature hike to learn about trees. In this episode, trail guide Teresa D’Anna offers parents tips and tricks for teaching kids about trees while we’re out on the trail.

As you plan your hike, here are a some helpful hints. You can mix and match them up to suit you and your family’s interests and children’s ages:

Before You Go

Books to Read

  • We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt – This is a fun read for kids K through 2nd grade. Use it to get kids excited about looking for leaves.
  • The Giving Tree- 2nd through 4th grades. This moving parable is a great read for kids and can help them start thinking about all the things trees give us: shelter, oxygen, things in our home (table, chairs, dressers, cabinets) and at school (desks, paper, books and pencils). This is also a good story to help kids make connections between nature and the larger world around them.
  • The Young Naturalist – grades 5 and up. This book offers kids more in depth learning about becoming a naturalist and looks at how trees are the base for the woodland community.
  • Fandex Family Field Guide: Trees – all ages. This handy guide will help you and the kids identify trees on your hike.

Make Your Own Trail Mix
Here’s a way to squeeze in some math skills in a tasty way. Kids and parents can mix up their own special blend of trail mix. Place bowls or bags of dried fruits, coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts on the kitchen counter or table; then have everyone place their own ratio, proportion, or, fraction of ingredients into sandwich bags.

Wear Appropriate Shoes and Dress
Going on a nature walk can be as simple as walking around our neighborhood. To make it extra adventurous, kids will get a kick out of dressing up for their trek out. Wear sturdy shoes that are able to get muddy. Long pants are also ideal if you’re going out into the woods.

During Your Walk

Leaves of Three, Let Them Be
Remember the old rhyme, “leaves of three, let them be.” Poison Ivy and Poison Oak both have three leaves. Since it’s sometimes hard to identify what will make you itch, it’s best to avoid anything with three leaves altogether.

Leaf Identification
You can identify trees by their leaves, bark, seeds and branches. Ask the kids to look for examples of alternate and opposite branching.

ABC Trail Game
Look for items on the trail that start with each letter of the alphabet.
A – acorn
B – branches, bug
C – caterpillar
D – dogwood, deer tracks, dirt

After Your Walk

Ask kids about their favorite part.
Enjoy a snack.
Wax, press or make a rubbing with collected leaves.

More Adventures in Learning

About Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper is the blogger behind Classic-Play.com, an online resource for creative families.  Her favorite past times include: dancing around her living room, watching the Pink Panther with her kids and daydreaming. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, photographer Dave Cooper, and two children. 

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  • Teprine Baldo

    What is the name of that amazing tree booklet in the clip? I would love to get one just like that for my kids!

    • http://www.pbs.org/parents/ Mary Hope Garcia – PBS Parents

      Hi Teprine,
      It’s called Fandex Family Field Guides: Trees. Please see the link above under “Books to Read.”

  • Rebecca Robinson

    My goat/sheep cut-out likes “Barney and Friends”. He also likes “BabyFirst TV”. I will teach my goat/sheep cut-out about trees. My goat/sheep cut-out likes “Sesame Street”. He also likes “Kipper the Dog”. My goat/sheep cut-out was made on February 8, 2013. My goat/sheep cut-out is ten months old. My jackal/wolf cut-out was made on a Friday the 13th. My jackal/wolf cut-out is three days old. My jackal/wolf cut-out will like “Barney and Friends”. My jackal/wolf cut-out was made on December 13, 2013.